Boris Johnson launched his 'direction of travel' for planning early last month, pledging to take advantage of opportunities in the outer boroughs. This is a sensible policy for a number of reasons, not least in lessening the strain on the already-stretched inner-London transport network.
Key to Mr Johnson's plans for these developments is the following pledge (emphasis mine):
All Londoners should have the homes, opportunities and services they need... London’s distinctive character and its diverse neighbourhoods and unique heritage must be cherished and protected.
Providing intelligent transport hubs for any new developments in the outer boroughs is essential to sustaining viable, low-carbon communities. All too often, transport does not join up. At High Barnet station, for example, bus links are difficult to reach, and some distance away. 'Soft' planning measures - the tying of bus services to trains or ferries is simple to enact and comes with significant benefits.
It is not uncommon in outer London for commuters to drive to their local train station - a distance of a mile or less. The first mile of any journey by car is both the most polluting, and damaging to vehicle's engine. Simply providing buses which are accessible, time-tabled to meet incoming rail services, and have capacity, would reduce such journeys. Perhaps this would be a good testing ground for the inner-city inappropriate bendy-buses?
Such integrated strategies work in both existing developments, and for those still in the planning stages.
The Mayor and Government need to ensure the continued delivery of existing transport infrastructure, and for longer-term capital projects which plan for the city's growth. During an economic downturn the appetite for such large-scale capital projects diminishes, but a range of new-thinking on the subject shows that for new developments, significant new transport links above and beyond the norm are not necessarily required.
Hank Dittmar, Chief Executive of the Prince of Wales' Foundation for Architecture and Urbanism, has written about the possibilities of designing new developments and towns in his book Transport and Neighbourhoods. From The Guardian's review of Mr Dittmar's proposals:
The imaginary set-up envisages businesses offering employment packages for home-based work; and neighbourhood cafes and bookshops being converted to office space.
None of these ideas are pie-in-the-sky but rather a simple re-aligning of the traditional work/home relationship. His thinking tallies with Christian Wolmar's own writing on the topic for LondonSays' Alternative Manifesto:
Another way of reducing demand at peak times is to create a climate among employers that moves away from the ‘presenteeism’ which pervades so many office environments. It is amazing that so far there has been so little impact of the internet revolution in terms of transport demand. People simply turn up at work from 9 to 5 (more often 6 or 7 these days) in the way they always have done without realising that much of what they do could not be undertaken at home using broadband.
That the Mayor and Government need to continue to think ahead, preparing for population growth and shifts, there is no doubt. These cash-intensive schemes should be matched - even outweighed - by 'soft' measures such as those listed above.
Businesses should be offered incentives to allow their employees to work from home, generating benefits for themselves and for London in reducing the pressure on the transport network. Just as biking and walking is now not just seen as an alternative to Mayor's transport plan but a vital strand of it, live/work neighbourhoods and working from home should be part of the regular lexicon of London developments.
On Wednesday 6th, our third article will examine the Olympic legacy and what it should deliver for London transport. The next article will follow two days after that.
Check back here on Wednesday to see the next step in the Transport Manifesto.